Impetigo (im-puh-TIE-go) is a highly contagious skin infection that mainly affects infants and children. Impetigo usually appears as red sores on the face, especially around a child's nose and mouth. The sores burst and develop honey-colored crusts.

Impetigo may clear on its own in two to three weeks, but antibiotics can shorten the course of the disease and help prevent the spread to others.

You may need to keep your child home from school or day care until he or she is no longer contagious, which is usually 24 to 48 hours after you begin antibiotic treatment. Without antibiotics, impetigo is contagious until the sores go away.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Classic signs and symptoms of impetigo involve red sores that quickly rupture, ooze for a few days and then form a yellowish-brown crust. The sores usually occur around the nose and mouth but can be spread to other areas of the body by fingers, clothing and towels.

A less common form of the disorder, called bullous impetigo, may feature larger blisters that occur on the trunk or diaper area of infants and young children.

A more serious form of impetigo, called ecthyma, penetrates deeper into the skin — causing painful fluid- or pus-filled sores that turn into deep ulcers.

When to see a doctor

If you suspect that you or your child has impetigo, consult your family doctor, your child's pediatrician or a dermatologist.

© 1998-2015 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. Terms of use